“I tell my students, you do not enter the future – you create the future. The future is achieved through hard work.” ~ Jaime Escalante
Category Archives: Mr. Adair’s Classroom
“Where do we begin Mr. Adair?”
“At the beginning, ” he said. And throughout the year that I was under his tutelage – he would continue to challenge me to, “Never stop searching for truth.” In this endeavor, we provide – once again – the writings of many writers – many of whom I have known for years – providing historical lessons of import and understanding – little of which is addressed in our “classrooms” today.
Andrew Jackson stares down the national bank and wins.
“Jackson Slaying the Many-Headed Monster,” 1828. Private collection, Peter Newark American Pictures / Bridgeman Art Library
On July l0, 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent a message to the United States Senate. He returned unsigned, with his objections, a bill that extended the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, due to expire in 1836, for another fifteen years. As Jackson drily noted, the bill was presented to him on the Fourth of July, a day freighted with portent.
Today Jackson’s Bank Veto and the political conflagration known as the “Bank War” that it touched off seem arcane and nearly incomprehensible. While misdeeds among the rich and powerful still garner headlines and incite congressional inquiries, the core instruments of our economic system-the network of banks capped by the Federal Reserve; the corporate form of business enterprise; the very dollars in our wallets, issued and guaranteed by the federal government – are utterly taken for granted. That these could have been the subject of controversy, that anyone could seriously contemplate organizing American capitalism differently, seems nearly unthinkable. Andrew Jackson is recalled today, when recalled at all, for other things, primarily as the architect of forced Indian removal. His face on the $20 bill is a mystery to many, an outrage to some, and, to the knowing, a curious irony. Continue reading →
Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Commonwealth Club Speech” (September 23, 1932)
In this speech, delivered in the depths of the Great Depression, presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt sought to explain the dramatic ideological differences between himself and the Republican President Herbert Hoover, ‘the Great Engineer.’
In this speech Roosevelt attempts to distinguish the role of government as addressing public policy goals, in serving the public good, rather than simply administering some predetermined economic principles handed down by ‘the market’ and a class of professional economists and financiers.
The speech and the candidate were not well received by the media and the movers and the shakers of the day, the very serious and very comfortable people largely untouched by the economic hardship of the collapse of the stock bubble in 1929, who derided it as ‘too Socialist.’ Continue reading →
Learning more about the first Ukrainian American and his contributions to a foundational American story helps remind us that America has been profoundly transnational at every stage of its history.
The first settlers arriving in Jamestown (National Park Service)
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has unfolded over the last few weeks, most Americans have certainly been united in their support for the Ukrainian people and condemnation of Russia’s increasingly brutal attacks and tactics. But one area where there has been significantly less consensus is the question of whether and how the U.S. and its allies should intervene in the conflict. Among the arguments for the U.S. maintaining its distance from this unfolding European war is that this conflict is ultimately unrelated to the United States and that it concerns two foreign nations from whom we would do well to remain isolated.
There are various ways to challenge such isolationist arguments, including highlighting the historic moments when isolationism not only failed to end unfolding world wars, but also led directly to belated and more fraught U.S. involvement in those conflicts.
But there are also stories of early Americans who found their way to the continent from across the globe; these stories contradict any perspective on the U.S. as isolated from seemingly foreign nations like Ukraine. Learning more about the first Ukrainian American and his contributions to a foundational American story helps remind us that America has been profoundly transnational at every stage of its history. Continue reading →
The story of the Roanoke Colony is one of the most enduring mysteries in American history. In the late 16th century, a group of English settlers established a colony on Roanoke Island, located off the coast of present-day North Carolina. However, when a supply ship returned to the colony in 1590, all its inhabitants had vanished without a trace. This puzzling event has captivated historians and researchers for centuries, with various theories and speculations attempting to unravel the fate of the lost Roanoke Colony. Continue reading →
On Nov. 19, 1863, at the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. Continue reading →
Because of the US Supreme Court, the 14th Amendment’s greatest impact is not the protection of citizens’ rights, though it is cited for that purpose. It is and has been the granting of human rights to corporations – an exercise not founded in the Constitution itself nor in the Amendment itself, nor in any other part of the Constitution. It was an extension of power to corporations that the Court, without any explicit foundation, allowed to be promulgated in a summary of its 1886 decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway by the Court’s reporter. Continue reading →
Gold speculators in New York. (image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, May 7, 1964)
It was May, 1864. Grant was closing in on Lee in Virginia. New Yorkers were growing hopeful that the long, terrible ordeal of the Civil War would soon be over.
But their hopes were dashed when on Wednesday, May 18 they read in two of their morning papers, the New York World and the Journal of Commerce, that President Lincoln had issued a proclamation ordering the conscription of an additional 400,000 men into the Union army on account of “the situation in Virginia, the disaster at Red River, the delay at Charleston, and the general state of the country.” Continue reading →
James Monroe (c. 1819) by Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
Whatever his failings as an imaginative thinker, President James Monroe’s own convictions were rooted deeply in the spirit and the letter of the U.S. Constitution. As he entered the White House in March 1817, he had little (well, less) use for James Madison’s newfound love of nationalism. While he entered the presidency too late to stop the Second Bank of the United States from forming, he could and did make sure that the government’s role in creating public works was limited. If the people truly wanted the government building more canals and roads, he thought, they would need to get an amendment to the Constitution passed, as the Constitution of 1787 did not allow for such things, he believed. And, though a Virginian and in sympathy with many of the Old Republican beliefs of John Randolph of Roanoke and John Taylor of Caroline, he was not one of them, and he feared the creation of any parties or factions. Continue reading →
Considered to be one of the most famous 20th-century scientists, Marie Curie is the only person to win two Nobel prizes in two different fields. Defying the expectations for what a woman should be during her time, Curie paved the way for our understanding of radioactivity. She also discovered two new elements, but not without paying a horrific price… Continue reading →
Munition workers painting shells at the National Shell Filling Factory No.6, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire in 1917. This was one of the largest shell factories in the country, circa 1917. (Photo by Horace Nicholls/ Imperial War Museums)
As they did over a century ago ahead of World War I, the Merchants of Death thrive behind a veil of duplicity and slick media campaigns.
The senseless slaughter of World War I began with the murder of a single man, a Crown Prince of a European empire whose name no one was particularly familiar with at the time. Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria was the presumptive heir to the Austrian-Hungarian empire in June of 1914.
His assassin was a young Bosnian Serb student and the murder of the Crown Prince set off a cataclysmic series of events resulting in the deaths of over 20 million people, half of whom were civilians. An additional 20 million people were wounded. Continue reading →
In a recent column, I discussed an argument about secession made by Abraham Lincoln and sympathetically expounded by Michael P. Zuckert in his important book A Nation So Conceived. Lincoln maintained that a nation once formed could not allow secession because doing so would open it to unlimited fissiparous tendencies, culminating in anarchy. This argument did not address the problem of slavery, surely relevant to the concrete circumstances of the Civil War. Zuckert has a suggestive, though in my view mistaken, discussion of Lincoln’s view of secession and slavery, and in this week’s article, I’ll try to explain Zuckert’s position and the difficulties he faces defending it.
Zuckert’s position is this: Lincoln considered slavery to be morally wrong and contrary to the Declaration of Independence, which he took to state universally valid truths that were binding on the American nation. Continue reading →
I was nearly four months old at the time of this man’s passing. I am proud to have been alive during his waning days. May he be resting in piece. ~ Editor
Julius Franklin Howell (January 17, 1846 – June 19, 1948) joined the Confederate Army when he was 16. After surviving a few battles, he eventually found himself in a Union prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland. In 1947, at the age of 101, Howell made this recording at the Library of Congress. Continue reading →
With inflation, prices, and bank failures all on the rise these days, many of us are looking anxiously toward our pocketbooks and wondering what we’ll do when the financial crisis inevitably hits. Will we have to start over with our retirement fund, or will we be impoverished in a matter of months?
There may not be a surefire way to completely shield ourselves from potential ruin, but there are ways to safeguard against it. One of those ways is tucked away in an obscure corner of American founder Noah Webster’s American Spelling Book. Entitled “Domestic Economy Or, the History of Thrifty and Unthrifty,” Webster (1758-1843) spins the tale of two men, the one a financial wizard, the other a financial failure. Continue reading →